The Amazing Discovery
Mike was woken up by the alarm going off. The time was 3 am. The whole world seemed to be asleep, it was so quiet. He took a quick shower. The splashing water sounded so deafening to him that he was sure he'd wake up the neighbors. He put on his large glasses, his brightly colored sweater and the goofy pants, and headed out to the studio. It was four in the morning when he arrived.MORE...
Mr Jared drank his old brandy from the warm glass, swinging the liquid in small circles before raising it to his lips. He was sitting at the dinner table, the plate in front of him empty, the chicken bones on a separate, smaller plate. The butler rushed in, deftly assembled these and Elizabeth’s plates, along with the empty bowls and serving dishes, and disappeared. Elizabeth looked at the glass of bubbly mineral water in front of her, and smiled. She looked at Mr Jared with a strange fascination and delight, and he looked approvingly back at her.MORE...
A good sales pitch
'Your eleven o'clock's here.'
'Henry Byrd, from Caligenic Enterprises.'
'Never heard of him.'
'Well, you have an appointment with him.'
'Whatever. Where is he?'
The secretary pointed toward a short, bald man in his mid-fifties, sitting still with an old-fashioned doctor's handbag, straight up, on his legs. He was wearing thick-rimmed glasses, reminding George of his old chemistry teacher. There was something too nervous, too tight about this guy. Whatever he's selling, I don't wanna buy, George thought, as he walked toward him, hand stretched out.
'Mr Williams, I was hoping to give you my Caligenic presentation… is there a conference room near here where I can show you our proposal?'
'Yes, but frankly, I'm not so sure that we…'
'Don't worry, Mr Byrd. I won't waste your time if you're not interested.'
Julie, a 25-year-old girl from the Bronx, let the subway jostle her as it drilled its way through the tunnels, rushing downtown. She was sleepy; she'd gotten up early today, and still she was in danger of being late for work.
When she reached Fifth Avenue, the doors swung open and in ran a boy of about six years old, followed by a desperate-looking man in his forties. 'Dad, dad! This is the subway again, isn't it?' the boy asked, electrified. 'Can I stand, dad?' Nervously, Dad gave a small nod. The boy proceeded to stand in an empty part of the car, stretching out his arms and legs but not touching anything. As the train accelerated, braked and swung through its curves, the boy managed to keep from toppling over. He was giggling as the train did its utmost to smash him to the floor. The father smiled apologetically to the other passengers, who looked uninterested rather than annoyed.
Just then, the doors opened again and in walked Marilyn, Julie's mother. She sat down opposite her daughter. They dared to look at each other as random passengers will do, then averted their eyes, studying details of the subway car's interior.
Marilyn had given up Julie for adoption 25 years ago, and had subsequently lost all contact with her. She rarely thought of Julie (whose name she didn't even know), not out of heartlessness but out of survival. Just as she had been forced to rip out part of herself when she pushed herself deep into the pillows as the nurse walked out, cooing to the bundle on her arm—just so had she been forced to suppress and forget, so as not to be confronted with her horrible act. It was a good thing she'd done that. She would never have been able to step out of the situation, regard it objectively and see how the decision had been a good one. Rather she'd have cried herself to sleep, as she had done that first year, not for her loss but for her crime. Instead, she'd chosen a new life and, though she had found other, equivalent hardships in it, she was alive.
Marilyn stared blankly in front of her, her unfocused gaze directed toward Julie. Her daughter noticed and, for a split second, felt as if her mother was a blind woman.
Julie had not been so fortunate in throwing the weight of that rejection, a quarter century old, off her back. She'd been raised in foster homes, and in the first one already, she learned the truth about her origins from a conniving stepsister in a blurt of rage. Rather than trying to locate her mother, Julie went through life accepting that she was a stranger among strangers. This had turned her into a person who was hard to relate to but loyal to the few who could. She was unmarried, with no sign of change. When she wasn't knee-deep in work, she found herself depressed; so she worked harder to avoid the depression.
Her mother focused her eyes and found herself staring at Julie. This girl, Marilyn realized, had the exact same color eyes she had. That shade of brown was rather uncommon. She didn't smile at Julie, but looked out the window as if the darkness of the tunnels offered some fascinating view.
The subway screeched around a corner, slamming the boy into the side of the car. He laughed loudly. 'This is our stop', his father said loudly, as if he wanted to inform everyone that their ordeal, at least, was over. Julie got up from her seat and maneuvered toward the door, touching her mother's knees as she did so. She gave Marilyn a lightning-fast, apologetic look, and was treated to a stern glance in response. Bending her back slightly over this first bad experience of her day, she went to stand in front of the doors, next to the father and his son. The platform came rolling along the subway car, and as the doors opened, she pushed herself into the anonymous masses. Like a drop in the ocean, she soon dissolved into the crowd, blinking hard as she reached the open daylight, while the subway with her mother in it continued its journey through the dark bowels of the city.
Cut at the stalk
The Celebrity never looked uglier. She'd asked Consuela, her trusted, freshly imported maid, to go down to that part of the city where her less fortunate Hispanic friends lived and to get the cheapest possible sports jacket and jogging pants from the worst store. 'Oh, and throw in a pair of sunglasses while you're at it', she'd added. She'd had to take actual cash out of an ATM for this, she, who'd paid with plastic since her sitcom hit it off several years ago.
Now, dressed in this outfit, she'd shaken off Ed and Ted, her most faithful paparazzi shadows, and sat in a diner, nervously chewing on fries her diet didn't allow. A blackhaired man, eyebrows grown together, suddenly came and sat opposite her without saying a word. To her surprise, he looked anywhere but at her. When his supersized order had been slammed on the table, he started talking. 'I'll need information to work with', he said in a tone of voice that did not expect to negotiate. 'When did it start, how does he contact you. What has he told you about himself.'
She explained in detail the 'harassment' as she called it; he stopped her short when she went into the details of his diatribes, references to specific bodily organs, the blatant incompetence of the police, how the press had joked about her 'nutty admirer'. She wasn't used to being interrupted when she complained about something, and it annoyed her. As he got up, burping from the extra large Coke, she looked up at him.
'I can count on your discretion?'
'You can count on a quiet, simple solution to your problem.'
He left, and she finished both their fries, starved.
Every night, the calls kept coming. As did the densely scribbled letters, rambling and psychotic. She began to doubt that her problem would be solved at all. She listened to the radio and watched TV, paying more attention than usual to the daily barrage of cruel murders, gang slayings and freak accidents. She tried to somehow decode the events, to see if they somehow contained a message to her. But they didn't. And then, after two weeks, it all stopped, from one minute to the next. She never thought it could be this simple. Things back to normal, and that, apart from some discrete payment to her benefactor, was that.
He called the same night.
'This is great,' she said, 'you've been a great help.'
'Glad to be of service', he replied. There was something informal and friendly in his voice that hadn't been there before. 'I was happy to help out, you know, being a fan and all.'
'Oh, you're a fan? That's great. Listen, if you'd like something special, a signed DVD or glossy..'
'I actually had something else in mind.'
'All right then, tickets to my show.'
'No, no, no.' And he told her. She hung up in mid-sentence, pale. Immediately, the phone rang again.
'You OWE ME!' he bellowed. 'I can tell the cops. You BELONG to me now!!'
In the next week's tabloids, the headlines ran, 'HER NEW MYSTERY BOYFRIEND SLAPS WAITER IN JEALOUS RAGE' and 'SHE'S ON CLOUD NINE WITH HER NEW HEARTTHROB -- BUT DOES HE HAVE A PSYCHIATRIC PAST?'
Fred rang the doorbell. He could hear the music coming from behind it, the voices. As the door opened, his mouth widened into a forced smile. "Hel-lo," he sang, vigorously shaking Paul's hand, "and how are you?" Paul sighed. "Fine, fine." "Great place. Looks like the party's getting underway", Fred said, laughing for a reason Paul couldn't quite fathom. "Yes," he said, "just put your coat upstairs on the bed and join us. Second door on the right."
Fred hopped up the stairs. Before he could reach the second door, he noticed that the first door was ajar. He looked around, then opened the darkened room with obvious curiosity. "Hello?" he asked superfluously. "Anybody there?" He fumbled for the light switch. The sight of the room made his jaw drop.
Lining all four walls from top to bottom were literally thousands of pictures of him, Fred, obviously taken without his knowledge or consent. In between them were all kinds of news paper clippings, each of which detailed some act of gruesome violence. Stabbings, murders, rapes, torture --every wall was full of it. Some clippings and photos were stained with some red liquid.
Fred stood silently in the middle of the room, turning occasionally but unable to avoid seeing himself and the clippings. After several minutes, he left the room, went downstairs and got out of the house. He started the car and was seen driving away by Alan. "Wasn't that Fred driving off?" Alan said to Paul, who opened the door for him. "It could be", said Paul, "but I don't mind. He's really an annoying and nosey person. I hope I never see him again, to be honest."
A Personal Memoir
Guest author Velma Dinkley writes a short personal memoir called The Demons of My Past, exclusively for snowstone. A sample: "What I remember best is the smell of that van, that smell of wet dog. We had a big dog back then, it had to stay in the back, of course. And it would sleep there, yelping, ignorant of the tens of thousands of miles of American highway rushing away under it. We'd found the poor mongrel tied to a tree in some state in the Midwest, emaciated. We took it in and gave it some leftover pizza, which it seemed to adore. Over the next few weeks, the poor animal regained its strength."
"Ed sat at the table, closed his eyes and saw the envelope, probably slightly crumpled or folded, sitting in the darkness of the suitcase. He'd really torn it open badly. He'd been annoyed by the absence of a sender, by the badly handwritten address of his employer." Read how a letter can tear you up, instead of vice versa, in my short story.
Speaking of short stories, a site called "Salinger Vetoed" offers online versions of no less than twenty-two unpublished short stories by J.D. Salinger, the reclusive writer whose "The Catcher in the Rye" is one of my favorite books of all time. Download and read these stories before the copyright police takes them off again.
Update: That was quick! Try the link again and you'll see what I mean.
The Soldier's Wife - fiction
When I wrote this story, the United States, where I imagined it taking place, was not yet at war. It’s sad to see reality closing in on my fiction.
The Celebrity groaned. The artificial smell of the duct tape covering his mouth mixed with the sick sweet stink of the blood caked into his now thick, sticky hair. He again tried to get up from the floor of the minivan, but he'd never realized it was so hard to get up while wearing handcuffs behind your back. Of course he'd worn them on the set, and during some kinky escapades even off the set, but he'd never been forced to get upright while wearing them.
If only they'd remove the tape, then he could talk to them, ask them what they wanted. They were probably stoned goons hoping for a shitload of money. The whole world must be looking for him, these stupid fucking kids would get lynched when they were discovered to be the kidnappers. Or.. maybe they were terrorists or idealists or something. You know, not in it for the money and shit like that. Little punks. They bored him but they didn't scare him.
He noticed that the sounds of traffic around them were increasing. They must be somewhere in a city or something. Nobody could see him from the outside, he was in the dark back part of the minivan. He desperately attempted to shout, but the looks they gave him told him it was probably not a good idea.
Alex turned around from the passenger seat. From behind his Ronald McDonald mask he said to the Celebrity: "Tell me, has this been the worst you've ever been treated in all your life?" The Celebrity looked at him, probably wondering whether this was a trick question. But in the end, he nodded. Alex crawled over the seat to the back of the van and put his face next to the Celebrity's. "Well, you ain't seen nuthin' yet. And the best part is, we're not gonna do it."
With that, he opened the side door, threw the Celebrity out in one smooth gesture, and the minivan drove off at high speed.
The Celebrity found himself in the middle of the busiest square in the city. "OHMIGOD!!" he heard. "Look who that is!!" He heard his name being shouted from all directions. He gave his practiced, I'm-so-honored smile, but the screaming only increased in pitch and volume. Bold people walked up to him, to touch him, to verify he was real. They soon started pulling on him, while the crowd around him pressed them closer toward him. He felt the sleeve of his jacket give way and disappear. The crowd pressed into his chest, taking his breath away. Hundreds of hands were now pulling on him. His name was being shouted, first confused, then in unison, faster and faster, like the ritualistic chant of a primitive jungle tribe. They'd torn off his clothes now, he was naked and defenseless among them. They scratched him, tried to kiss him but bit him, ripped off pieces of him as mementos, drowned out his cries and howls, they ripped him to pieces, tore him from limb to limb, disintegrated him, scattered him into minuscule pieces of bone shards, blood drops and bits of flesh until there was nothing left of him.
Take a good, hard look - fiction
"So remind me again how we are less creepy than either a stalker or a private detective."
"First of all," Shelly says, taking a bite out of her sandwich, "it's an experiment. Second, it's a social thing. Learning everything about a random person will provide us with insight into areas of society we otherwise wouldn't, nay couldn't explore."
Sound interesting? Read the short short story that I wrote.